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‘What the Lyric Be’: A Playlist for Poetry‘s April 2017 Issue
For our April 2017 playlist, we asked contributor Alison C. Rollins to curate a selection of music for us. You can read about her approach to creating the playlist below. Click here to open the playlist in your Spotify app.
A poem’s diction, rhythm, or syntax is palpably describable, but asking a poet to produce a poem with an interesting tone is like asking a chef to produce a meal that tastes good: if successful, the chef will be thinking about the manipulation of particular ingredients. You can’t reach into the pantry for a cup of tone.
I enjoy this notion of thinking about tone as a “manipulation of particular ingredients,” as something that is beyond what one can collect from a pantry or contained source. When I think of this description of tone I think of the difficulty of describing music that has what I think of as the makeup of funk.
Cornel West, in an interview with SSRC, argued that a “focus on the funk” is a way of life, a set of practices. West maintains,
[Samuel] Beckett’s mess is my funk. And by funk, what I mean is, wrestling with the wounds, the scars, the bruises, as well as the creative responses to wounds, scars, and bruises—some of them inflicted because of structures and institutions, some of them being tied to our existential condition, in terms of losses of loved ones…in terms of betrayals of friends, and so forth.
This playlist is a form of wrestling with the wounds; a journey through my mind, a groove that embodies a sound that you can’t just “reach into the pantry for a cup of.” The playlist opens and closes with “revisited” renditions of Nina Simone’s songs “Sinnerman” and “Feeling Good,” which to me create the perfect frame for the energy and life of the poems (or songs) that live on and continue to be reworked and re-imagined by contemporary artists. In another sense, maybe these songs embody some sort of remixed oral truth for me; some contradiction in living, or complexity in love. As David Tomas Martinez writes in the opening to “Love Song”: Though I am more Che than Chavez, I am still a dove.
You can find past playlists here.